By Brad Fauber
The road to the College World Series is officially in full swing, and there is plenty of exciting baseball to be played for fans of the sport.
This season in particular should provide plenty of entertainment for local fans, as both the Virginia Cavaliers and the Virginia Tech Hokies are hosting a regional bracket.
The fact that both schools captured top seeds in regional play provides a good storyline in and of itself, but when you look deeper at the history behind the two schools in the NCAA championship tournament, the story becomes even more intriguing.
First there are the Cavaliers, who have steadily become of the most consistent teams in college baseball under head coach Brian O'Connor. UVa has made the tournament field each year in the 10 seasons under O'Connor -- one of only eight Division I programs to do so -- and the Cavaliers have made two trips to CWS in Omaha, Neb., in that span.
Then there are the Hokies, who pulled off a bit of late-season magic to help secure a top seed in regional play. This season marks just the 10th appearance in the NCAA championships for Virginia Tech in the program's 120-year history, and the first time ever that the Hokies get to host in regional play.
The selection of Virginia Tech as one of the 16 teams to host a regional bracket came as a bit of a shock to those who follow the sport, which could in part be a result of Tech's lack of relevancy in the sport over the years. But it also can be argued that the Hokies are one of the hottest teams in college baseball entering the tournament.
Virginia Tech (38-20) has won 16 of its last 19 ballgames since a five-game losing streak in mid-April, and an impressive run deep into the ACC tournament ultimately put the Hokies in the position they currently find themselves in.
Virginia Tech caught everyone by surprise in the conference tournament by beating two top-10 teams in UVa and Florida State before topping Georgia Tech in a close game that sent the Hokies to their first ACC tournament championship game. Tech lost to North Carolina in the championship last weekend, but its impressive late-season surge was enough to garner a regional site in Blacksburg.
In the Blacksburg Regional, the Hokies play host to a four-team field completed by second-seeded Oklahoma (41-19), No. 3 Coastal Carolina (37-22) and fourth-seeded Connecticut (34-26) in a double-elimination format.
Oklahoma beat Coastal Carolina, 7-3, in the opening game of the regional on Friday, while Tech lost to UConn, 5-2, in the second game Friday evening. That sets up a match-up between the Hokies and Coastal Carolina today, with the loser being eliminated.
If Virginia Tech wins its regional, the Hokies would face the winner of the LSU regional in the super regionals for a berth in the CWS.
UVa (48-10) needed no such late-season magic to earn their spot as a regional host, as the Cavaliers have been riding the proverbial hot streak seemingly all season long.
The Cavaliers won nine of their final 11 games coming into the NCAA tourney, and their regular season performance was enough to earn UVa the No. 6 overall seed in the tournament, the third time in the last four years that the Cavaliers have claimed one of the eight national seeds.
UVa hosts a regional that includes No. 2 UNC-Wilmington (37-21), third-seeded Elon (32-28) and No. 4 Army (29-21). UVa -- who also beat Army in last year's regional round -- topped the Black Knights 2-1 on Friday afternoon, setting up a meeting today with Elon, which beat UNC-Wilmington on Friday evening.
UVa will be looking to advance out of the regional round after falling short of that goal last season, and the Cavaliers would host the winner of the Mississippi State regional in the next round if they advance.
The College World Series is always an exciting time for fans that enjoy baseball, and this season could be quite a memorable one if either UVa or Virginia Tech -- or both -- can make some noise in the tournament.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org